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Give your soil the ole “turn your head and cough”

June 20, 2012

Healthy soil grows healthy plants. How healthy is your soil? How do you find out? Give it the ole “turn your head and cough” of course! Here’s how:

Step 1 - Hang a sheet or curtain around your garden so that others cannot see. This makes your soil feel a little more at ease in an uncomfortable situation.

Step 2 - Remind your soil that you are a gardening professional and that while this may be uncomfortable, you’ll pass no judgement and that this really is necessary.

Step 3 - Put on your gloves if you are worried about getting your hands dirty.

Step 4 – Gently excavate 1 cubic foot of soil. (1 ft wide x 1 ft long x 1 ft deep)
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May weather recap

June 18, 2012

We saw a return of the rains in May and total precipitation was more than average! Maybe we can shake this drought one day…

At the risk of counting chickens, so far this summer is shaping up pretty good! Keep those fingers crossed and let’s have a look at May numbers:

May 2012

Average May

High: 96 Record High: 104
Average High: 88 Average High: 87
Low: 63 Record Low: 40
Average Low: 67 Average low: 67
Precipitation: 5.24″ Precipitation: 4.36″

“What is that?”

May 26, 2012

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Said my coworker as I pulled a purple carrot out of my bag.

“it’s a carrot” I replied.

“No it’s not. Carrots are orange.”

“Yes, some carrots are orange, but they also come in red, yellow, purple, cream, and different shades in between. You know, the most carrots used to be red or purple until a particular Royal family came along. Orange was their color and just like certain families had a royal rose, they used the orange carrot as one of their symbols thus making it more common.”

“Huh.”

This happens a lot. It’s sad that we have been so sheltered from all of the wonderful and different varieties of food all because they are less convenient for giant agribusiness to produce and distribute, but at the same time I do enjoy the shock and awe that comes with showing people something they had no idea existed, like purple carrots. Especially purple carrots this big.

The spring to summer transition.

May 23, 2012

Change is inevitable. Change can be good or change can be bad. Sometimes a change of pace is what we need. Often times in life, the transition between the old and the new is the most difficult, but not this time!!! The time between spring and full blown summer is fantastic in the garden! I love it because just when I start to get tired of things like kale, spinach, maybe even lettuce that I have been eating since January, in comes the first of the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers to slap me in the mouth, assault my taste buds, and then quickly sooth me to contentment! To really awaken the senses and breathe new life into my greens!

 

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Lemon cucumbers, gold nugget tomatoes, and a few strawberries that refuse to quit.

This year we tried a new to us heirloom variety of cucumber, the lemon cucumber. Actually, I guess I tried growing them in the fall, but the heat and cucumber beetles won so we never got any. To any cucumber beetles reading this, may you burn in hell. These are my cucumbers, keep your little hands (or legs more accurately) off them. To everyone else, try mixing it up! Grow something your grandparents would have eaten, maybe even your great grandparents! Back when they chose varieties for taste and not shelf life and transportability as in our industrialized food system. Read more…

What are you going to do with all that kale?

May 22, 2012

So you planted a bunch of kale this winter and spent all spring defending it against cabbage loopers, aphids, and rogue bunnies; now what? What’s a fella (or lady) to do with it all? Kale chips!!!! Pretty simple and pretty crunchy, which is a good combination in my book.

Here’s how we make them at my house:

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Step 1 - Chop up the kale, removing the central vein (or you can eat it if you really want to), into pieces about two or three inches big. Inaccuracy is more fun than measuring and having uniform chips so my advice is to just wing it.

Step 2 - Add kale, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix it until you have a light coating of oil on all the pieces. Place the oiled up kale on a baking sheet, ideally on parchment paper to prevent sticking.

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April weather recap

May 22, 2012

April decided to stand out in the crowd by not raining much, unlike the first three months of the year. We also saw a return of the 90’s.

(no, not MC Hammer, Pearl Jam, or saying “not!”… This is a weather update, remember?)

Here’s how The weather went down, April 2012 style:

April 2012

Average April

High: 94 Record High: 99
Average Daily High: 85 Average Daily High: 80
Low: 51 Record Low: 30
Average Low: 62 Average low: 59
Precipitation: 0.22″ Precipitation: 2.09″

I just read the weather service is forecasting a milder than average summer for us, by about a degree, and that la niña is weakening. Well, looks like temperatures in April were above average again so let’s just say I’m not planning my garden around their forecast.

Happy gardening!

Drought proof your garden

May 10, 2012

Summer is right around the corner and while we have had a great rain year thus far, we in central Texas are still in a moderate drought as of May 1st. I thought this would be a great time to talk about how to help your garden make it through what could be another tough summer as unscathed as possible.

We should all know by now that Texas summers get pretty hot (and if this is your first Texas summer, you are about to find out) and our bodies sweat as a way to try and cool themselves. Well, plants do a similar thing so obviously they need the right amount of water to do that. Notice that I said the right amount of water, not lots of water. Sure, you could flood your plants everyday or quickly water them 3 times a day and they may survive, but they won’t thrive. The goal is to not have to water everyday and especially since we are in a drought make the best use of the water when we do…. errrr water.

So how do we turn our plants into efficient drinkers? Start with the soil!! You may have heard that you need to “water deep”, but what exactly does that mean and accomplish? The soil dries out fastest at the surface because it is there that the sun heats it and the wind accelerates evaporation. Watering so that we get moisture below the first few inches is like money in the bank, except we are saving for a dry and sunny day, not a rainy one. In order for the plants to access that lower moisture, they need longer roots. Longer, less frequent waterings encourage the plant roots to grow down instead of out so they will be able to access this lower moisture and because the deeper soil is not exposed to the sun and wind , it stays cool and damp longer. Deeper roots and deeper water means your plants will be able to drink for longer making them less likely to dry and wilt.

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